Dr Mandu Ramakaba-Lesiea’s contribution to the struggle for gender
and racial equality in South Africa has been a life-long one that has seen her be the first woman to be incarcerated in Pollsmoor Prison,
earn the highest honour the county can bestow on a citizen and, most recently, A life of activism not in vain
receive an honoris causa Doctorate of Technology in Public Management from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
The 84-year-old was awarded the honorary degree for dedicating her life to the liberation struggle
and championing women’s rights, as well as campaigning against apartheid’s Bantu Education system.
Ramakaba-Lesiea also holds the Order of Luthili in silver for her excellent contribution to the struggle for gender equality
and a non-racial, just and democratic South Africa. She received the award in 2005 from former President Thabo Mbeki.
Her strength of character and determination became evident at a young age. With the help of her elder sister Ednah,
the 16-year-old Ramakaba-Lesiea narrowly escaped being put on a train from Cape Town to be married off to an unknown man in Potchefstroom.
At the time, her sister got wind of news that a husband had been arranged for her younger sibling and did not like the sound of it.
She snuck her clueless younger sister, Mandu, out of their family home and hid her until the train left.
This and other exploits of their step-father, James Khojana, would later prompt them to leave home as teenagers to find work.
Later they would become activists in the liberation struggle. Championing women’s issues,
including helping with the mobilisation of the iconic 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings against pass laws, drew attention to Ramakaba-Lesiea.
In an interview at her Gugulethu home in the Western Cape, Ramakaba-Lesiea told PSM that when newlyappointed CPUT chancellor Thandi Modise capped her recently, A life of activism not in vain
she felt honoured to have received recognition from the institution ahead of other stalwarts in other parts of the country.
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